Since Europeans first began cataloguing the plant species of Maryland in the early 18th century, over 3,000 woody and herbaceous species have been recognized. The most important, by necessity, were those which provided food and shelter. Once their basic needs were addressed, settlers began to explore and describe their finds to their brethren across the Atlantic. Because of its diverse geology, hydrology and land formation, Maryland was home to an abundance of plant species, creating unique natural communities and providing habitat to wildlife.
Early documents by botanists provide current researchers with a picture of the landscape at the time of colonization. Since that time, an estimated 300 plant species have become extinct. Declines in number are due to a variety of factors: loss of habitat through conversion to development or agriculture, changes in hydrology, fragmentation, pollution and even over-collection. The Wildlife and Heritage Service Natural Heritage Program tracks the status of over 1,250 native plants and animals that are among the rarest in Maryland and most in need of conservation efforts as elements of our State's natural diversity. Learn more about Rare, Threatened and Endangered Plants in Maryland as well as Maryland’s Natural Communities by clicking on the images below.
Maryland is home to an over 90 species of mammals, 93 species and subspecies of reptiles and amphibians, over 400 species of birds and several hundred species of marine and freshwater fishes. An untold number of insect and other invertebrate species (crustaceans, spiders, mollusks, etc) also reside here. Of all of these thousands of creatures, over 300 are rare. Over 110 of these species are designated as Threatened or Endangered in Maryland and are afforded protection.
All of these creatures, regardless of how humans choose to categorize them – rare, common, game, nongame – offer us something valuable, whether tangible or not. Food, clothing, shelter, opportunities for recreation, clean water, all of these can be directly related to the existence of Maryland’s wide diversity of species. Check out the Maryland Wildlife page to see lists of Maryland species as well as fact sheets on different animals found in Maryland. Learn more about Game Birds, Game Mammals and Rare, Threatened and Endangered Animals in Maryland by clicking on the images below.
An increasing array of foreign invaders, plants and animals with no natural predators, are endangering Maryland's native habitats. These Invasive & Exotic Species out-compete native plants and animals, resulting in a loss of Maryland's biological biodiversity.
Ways to Get Involved
One way to help Maryland’s plants and wildlife is to create backyard wildlife habitat. To find out more information on creating backyard wildlife in Maryland then visit the Wild Acres Program website.
In addition, the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service offers a variety of Educational Programs. These programs include a variety of hunter education, educator professional development, outdoor experiences and hands-on materials.
For those who want to learn more about the biological diversity and ecosystems in your neighborhood, then consider connecting with some of the many non-profit Maryland Naturalist Organizations. Often, these organizations offer field trips, seminars, classes, and workshops to help budding naturalists and folks interested in their environment gain a deeper understanding of and greater appreciation for natural world in which they live.